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If you’ve ever impatiently spent hours in a hospital waiting room, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like sitting through the new thriller directed by Brad Anderson. Depicting the travails of a man whose wife and young daughter have mysteriously disappeared after entering a hospital, Fractured, premiering on Netflix, is the sort of psychological suspenser that proves grueling for all the wrong reasons.
At the story’s beginning, Ray Monroe (Sam Worthington) is driving on the highway with his wife Joanne (Lily Rabe) and 6-year-old daughter Peri (Lucy Capri). It’s obvious from their tense bickering that things are not going well for the couple, who are returning home after a holiday weekend spent with Peri’s grandparents. But things are only going to get worse.
RELEASE DATE Oct 11, 2019
Stopping at a rest area, Peri is terrified by a menacing dog that looks like it stepped out of a Stephen King horror tale. In his efforts to distract the growling beast, Ray causes Peri to fall into a construction ditch and then falls in himself as well trying to rescue her. Both father and daughter wind up unconscious.
Upon reviving, Ray drives like the devil to the nearest hospital, which, despite being in the middle of nowhere, has an emergency room so filled with patients that it looks like there’s a war zone nearby. The admittance desk clerk, who would make Nurse Ratched seem benign, seems unconcerned by the little girl’s injury and brusquely informs Sam that they’ll just have to wait.
Eventually, they’re seen by a kindly-seeming doctor (played by veteran character Stephen Tobolowsky, which clues you in that something’s about to be amiss), who compliments Peri on her beautiful eyes and decides to send her for a CAT scan to make sure there’s no serious head injury. Ray is told that only one parent can accompany the little girl, so he stays behind. And that’s the last he sees of them.
Screenwriter Alan McElroy, who has extensive genre credits (Spawn, Wrong Turn, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever), has devised a reasonably nightmarish scenario, one to which any parent can certainly relate. But ironically, once the premise has been established, the film only gets duller from there, as it devolves into a repetitive series of arguments between Ray and the hospital’s doctors and staffers who insist that his wife and daughter were never patients there. Instead, they claim that Ray walked in himself, claiming to have a head injury as a result of a car accident, and that he must be experiencing delusions.
Worthington delivers an effectively tense performance, making us feel sympathy for his character’s plight while simultaneously providing hints that Ray, a recovering alcoholic, may indeed not be a completely trustworthy protagonist. The film constantly plays with our perceptions, alternatingly keeping us firmly on Ray’s side and dropping hints that the hospital employees, who keep exchanging suspicious looks, may indeed be up to no good.
Unfortunately, it all plays out in completely tedious fashion, having all the urgency of watching someone having an impassioned argument with their medical insurance representative. The film also eventually wears us out with its constant reversals, until a final twist ending that, while not entirely hard to see coming, feels hopelessly unearned.
Director Anderson, who has made far better films (Session 9, The Machinist), fails to infuse the proceedings with the stylization necessary to help us overlook the mechanical manipulations. Fractured ultimately proves no more scary than Republican arguments against Obamacare.
Production companies: Koki Productions, Crow Island Films,
Cast: Sam Worthington, Lily Rabe, Lucy Capri, Adjoa Andoh, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lauren Cochrane, Shane Dean, Christopher Sigurdson
Director: Brad Anderson
Screenwriter: Alan McElroy
Producers: Paul Schiff, Mike Macari, Neal Edelstein
Executive producer: Ian Dimerman
Director of photography: Bjorn Charpentier
Editor: Robert Mead
Production designer: Lauren Crasco
Composer: Anton Sanko
Costume designer: Sandra Soke
Casting: Jim Heber, Sheila Jaffe
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